Tag Archives: King Jammy

King Jammy and Alborosie join forces on new dub album

Legendary producer and mixing engineer King Jammy and Alborosie, the acclaimed Italian/Jamaican singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist/engineer, have joined forces for a new dub album called Reality of Dub.

The set hits the streets in early 2015 and is recorded and mixing using analogue equipment and vintage techniques. Check how they work together below. History in the making.

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Four superstars showcased on new King Jammy box set

Vocal Superstars At King Jammys - ArtworkSuccessful producer, engineer and label owner Prince Jammy, later King Jammy, has recently earned himself two collector’s box sets on reggae powerhouse VP Records. One of them – Rootsman Vibrations at King Jammy’s – was reviewed by Reggaemani only a week ago.

The second set is titled Vocal Superstars at King Jammy’s. And the title doesn’t lie. The four album box set collects one album each from Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Horace Andy and Sugar Minott. These are some of Jamaica’s most gifted and celebrated singers, and unfortunately Horace Andy is the only one still alive.

This set isn’t as cohesive as Rootsman Vibrations. Or it has one main oddity – Sugar Minott’s Bitter Sweet. A great album in every aspect, but it’s an organic roots album with live instrumentation put out in 1979. The other three albums – Dennis Brown’s History aka The Exit, Gregory Isaacs’ Come Along and Horace Andy’s Haul and Jack-Up – were originally released in the mid to late 80s and have a completely different sound – sparse, computerized and digital with drum machines and synths.

All albums bear King Jammy’s signature sweet reggae sound and even though none of them are regarded as a classic these days, they still sound strong and the box set showcases the shift from analogue reggae to digital dancehall.

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Vibrating roots from King Jammy’s camp

Rootsman Vibrations At King Jammys - ArtworkA recent box set from VP Records collects four rare and in-demand roots albums produced by Prince Jammy, since the mid 80s known as King Jammy.

The box set is very tasty since it features four stellar albums – Johnny Osbourne’s Folly Ranking (not to be confused with the Henry “Junjo” Lawes produced set Fally Lover), Barry Brown’s Showcase, Hugh Mundell & Lacksley Castell’s Jah Fire and Noel Phillips’, aka Echo Minott, Youth Man Vibrations. The latter set was actually recently reissued on vinyl. A timely and odd coincidence since it has been unavailable since it was originally issued in 1980.

All four albums were actually released in 1980. At the time Johnny Osbourne was at the height of his powers, while the other artists were more up and coming. Well maybe not Hugh Mundell. Even though still in his late teens he had already dropped the majestic Africa Must be Free by 1983.

All four albums are hard, relentless and tough roots reggae with driving bass lines and pounding drums. Johnny Osbourne’s singing is as warm and pleasant as always. The other four singers have an energetic and youthful approach, sometimes reminiscent of a young Barrington Levy.

Rootsman Vibrations at King Jammys comes with a sizzling 33 tracks, of which five are in a showcase style with dub versions that could tear down the walls of Fort Knox. An excellent box set to say the least.

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Another decent effort from Sizzla

Sizzla – one of the most productive reggae artists ever – recently dropped The Scriptures, an album produced John John, son of veteran producer King Jammy.

Last year the pair did the wicked Music in my Soul – featured on this set – on the Zion Gate riddim, a relick of (Ain’t Got No Love) originally voiced by Leroy Smart.

The Scriptures is in the same rootsy vein, and is mostly built around live instrumentation. Those who urge for an angry and more dancehall oriented Sizzla will be disappointed.

Sizzla is mostly in a singing mood, and you can hear a lot of his high falsetto, which is more or less an acquired taste. Many tracks are saved by tasteful harmonies.

Just listen to World Cry. The verses took a while to fully appreciate, while the chorus sticks like glue.

And this actually goes for the album as a whole. It took me three or four times listening to the album before I realized that The Scriptures is a pretty strong effort. It is not great, and has several dull moments. Partly because of an overuse of rock guitar solos, and the punky Jump for Joy is very hard to understand.

Sizzla is undoubtedly an artist of many dimensions and styles. Straight singing is however not his strongest side, and this album owes much to the backing vocals courtesy of  Camar Doyles, Connie Francis, Finoa Robinson and Sherida.

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Steely & Clevie revolutionized reggae

Steely & Clevie are two of the most gifted musicians and producers coming from Jamaica. They are responsible for numerous hits spanning over three decades and their musicianship has been utilized by producers such as King Jammy and Augustus “Gussie” Clarke.

Now VP Records has bestowed them with a three disc compilation containing 42 of their own productions and a DVD with almost two hours of material.

Steely, who sadly passed away in June 2009, and Clevie, have been in the music business since the 70’s. Their first recording together was Hugh Mundell’s classic Africa Must be Free (by 1983) produced by Augustus Pablo.

Afterwards, Steely & Clevie went different ways – Steely joined the famous Roots Radics band and Clevie joined In Crowd, led by producer, singer and song writer Fil Callender.

They met up again in the mid 80’s and from then on they’ve played on countless of hit songs coming out of Jamaica – both as session musicians at King Jammy’s studio as well as on their own after they opened their own facilities in 1988.

The 42 songs on Digital Revolution showcase an era in reggae, an era when technology and computers reigned in the studio and in the dancehalls. And Steely & Clevie were masters of handling drum machines and keyboards. Their innovative style paved the way for digital, percussion driven and groundbreaking riddims such as Punany, Duck and Cat’s Paw.

Digital Revolution includes plentiful of hits spanning over growling deejay Tiger’s When and soulful singer Garnett Silk’s Love is the Answer to more contemporary sounds in Sean Paul & Mr. Vegas’ smash hit Haffi Get da Gal Yah (Hot Gal Today).

Steely & Clevie’s importance in reggae music cannot be exaggerated and this anthology certainly shows the minds of geniuses.

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Ray Hurford is a bona fide reggae enthusiast

Music is naturally associated with artists, labels and producers. But there are others that operate more in the background, and are very vital to the scene. British writer and musician Ray Hurford is one such. He started the Small Axe fanzine in the late 70’s and has interviewed a range of artists that many just dream of.

Ray Hurford has been into reggae since its inception was around eleven years old when he bought his first reggae record.

– I talked about reggae at home and my sister, who worked at Tate and Lyle’s [a sugar maker], lent a box of records from a young Jamaican girl, says Ray with a broad cockney accent on the phone from his home in the UK.

Filled a gap
His interest in reggae, the people behind the music and the fact that no one wrote about reggae made him start the legendary fanzine Small Axe in the late 70’s. People had been writing about reggae before, but magazines were not interested in covering the topic anymore.

– In 1973 the public started to get interested in reggae and people like Carl Gayle and Penny Reel were some of the first to write about reggae seriously. There were a number of articles in the period 1973-1978. But then it stopped, says Ray, and continues:

– There were a lot of amazing artists coming out in the mid 70’s, but no one wrote about them and I wanted to change that.

Tax agency steps in
In 1978 everything seemed to be in place. The only part that was missing was money. But that little matter was suddenly resolved by a much beloved agency.

– I had paid too much tax and got some money back, which was rather unexpected. With that chunk of money I started Small Axe, Ray explains.

The first edition was put out as a pre release to see how the market would receive the magazine. It was an instant success.

– It became sought after since the writer at the Echoes gave it a good word, he says, and continues:

– I printed the first issue in a Xerox shop and it was published in September 1978. It was amazing. I got 30-40 orders and it was very encouraging.

Great demand
According to Ray the first issue was sold out immediately and was in incredible demand. The next issue was published in early 1979 and was distributed through Dub Vendor and Rough Trade.

– From there it just snowballed. I put out four editions in 1979 and three in 1980. It was such a success. Better than I had expected, says Ray in a joyful tone.

He managed to interview many, many reggae artists, including Norman Grant of the Twinkle Brothers, Dennis Alcapone (they’re still friends) and the late Prince Far I, who threw away Ray’s questions when they sat down for the interview.

But things changed. Reggae had now shifted to dancehall and technology altered the conditions for graphic design and printing.

– It became a question about money and I stopped working on the magazine for financial reasons.

Book publishing
Small Axe carried on until 1989, during that time Ray also turned his interest towards books.

The first edition in the More Axe series was put out in 1987. He also published a book on King Jammy and a book on singers as well as a series of Rhythmwise books.

A book on deejays, together with the late Finnish publisher and writer Tero Kaski, was also initiated.

– The Singers book was put out in 1996 by me and Tero Kaski. I sold a lot of my 7” to finance the book project. And it was successful, he says, and continues:

– More Axe was produced in 1-6. More Axe 8 was a total flop. A total disaster and I put an end to it. That was in 1997.

It was an abrupt ending and Ray explains that there is a big problem with publishing books – it’s expensive. So he found no reason to continue.

Started again
In the beginning of the 21st century Ray turned to recording and producing instead. But a rub-a-dub interested Swede made him interested in publishing again.

Joakim Kalcidis contacted me and was interested in the deeyjay book, which was never finished. So I and Joakim started working on it again around 2007, explains Ray, and continues:

– The deejay book was released in 2009 and since then there has been books on rock steady and dub. I have also put out the More Axe 2 again.

The next book is going to be about reggae and its early years.

– 1968 to 1970 was an amazing period. It’ll focus on the artists of the period. Artist profiles and the people who produced the music, like Leslie Kong.

Technology is the key
During our conversation Ray comes back to a topic – technology change. Everything he has done has been in relation to a change in technology. Whether it’s printing, publishing or payment methods.

– Paypal has changed a lot and it makes a big difference, says Ray, and states:

– The game has changed. It’s all technology.

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Ward 21 till Sverige i maj

Dancehalltrion Ward 21 besöker Stockholm den 28 maj och Malmö dagen därpå. Bakom spelningarna står ”Skandinaviens råaste och smutsigaste dancehallklubb Gully Creepin” med Safari Sound i spetsen.

Ward 21 är en samling innovativa musiker från Jamaica. De upptäcktes av legendariske producenten och ljudteknikern King Jammy för tolv år sedan och har hunnit med fyra plattor samt massor av rytmer och hitlåtar. Ward 21 står också bakom några av dancehallens kvinnliga stjärnor, exempelvis Natalie Storm och Tifa.

För att på bästa vis ladda inför de blytunga spelningarna kan du lyssna på den här mixen som Safari Sound satt ihop. Hitlåtar som Garrison, Ganja Smoke och Blood Stain är givetvis inkluderade.

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Två högklassiga retrorytmer

Producenterna Frenchie och John John har nyligen släppt varsin upphottad 70-talsrytm.

Fransosen Frenchie, som ligger bakom Maximum Sounds, har precis släppt en nyinspelning av rytmen Creation Rebel. Ursprungsversionen är bland annat grund för Burning Spears låt med samma namn. Frenchies version heter Rebellion 2010 och innehåller kända namn som Luciano och Chezidek.

Zion Gate heter en ny rytm från John John, son till King Jammy, och är något så ovanligt som en tung roots-rytm från Jamaica. På senare tid har det mest kommit hård dancehall och bashment därifrån. Eller lite smörigare reggae à la Don Corleone. Förmodligen har John John kikat på Europa där den här typen av rytmer är populära.

Bunny Lee gjorde ursprungsversionen till Zion Gate. Den rytmen heter (Ain’t Got) No Love och spelades in av Leroy Smart. Den nya versionen innehåller flera fina insatser, exempelvis från Tarrus Riley och Alborosie.

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Obskyr dub från Jammy

Skivbolaget Pressure Sounds lägger ytterligare en obskyr dubskiva i katalogen. Den här gången handlar det om plattan Strictly Dub från geniet Prince Jammy.

Albumet släpptes ursprungligen i USA på Prince Jammys eget skivbolag Jammys Records, enligt ett pressmeddelande från Pressure Sounds. Strictly Dub sägs också vara ett tidigt exempel på hans mästerliga mixnings- och produktionsteknik.

Låtarna är dubversioner av rytmer som spänner från ska över rocksteady till reggae, exempelvis klassiker som Ba Ba Boom, Ali Baba och Shank I Sheck.

Vinylversionen innehåller tio låtar medan cdversionen bjuder på två bonusspår – en version av Jackie Mittoos Hot Milk och Lester Sterlings Afrikaan Beat.

Håll utkik i butikerna måndagen den 12 april då plattan släpps.

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Spännande platta med Prince Jammy i mars

Den 30 mars släpper skivbolaget VP nya samlingen Jammys From the Roots. Plattan innehåller hela 32 tidiga produktioner från en av reggaens bästa och viktigaste producenter.

Jammys From the Roots innehåller både roots och dancehall, bland annat klassiker som Boom Shack A Lack med Junior Reid och Mr. Landlord med Half Pint. Men samlingen innehåller även mer okända låtar och artister. Vad sägs exempelvis om Life Hard A Yard med Natural Vibes och Natty Dread At the Controls med U Black.

Många av låtarna finns sedan tidigare på en uppsjö andra samlingar. Men Jammys From the Roots verkar ändå vara ett hyggligt försök att samla ett antal intressanta tidiga inspelningar på ett och samma ställe.

Den nya plattan ska för övrigt inte förväxlas med samlingen King Jammy in Roots från 2004 på avsomnade skivbolaget Auralux.

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